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We finally figured out why every time we tried to work out what day it was we always disagreed by one day. Michelle had been counting backwards from our departure on 20 May, while I had been counting days forwards in my photo and expenses record book. This resulted in a mismatch of one day since our original itinerary had called for an overnight trip on the train from Milazzo to Roma, an idea which we abandoned some time ago but for which we never updated our itinerary. So we have one missing day of planned accommodation. We plan to make that up tonight in Rome, hopefully in the same hotel for which we actually have a booking for tomorrow night.
This worked out at last, we woke up in time for our 07:15 rendezvous with the van woman. Thankfully this is the last time we have to be up by a specific early-ish time, since my watch is still as dead as it ended up from Positano, and in fact I decided to discard it here since it would make travelling that little bit lighter. I'm sure it was ruined by the sea water and did not just have the battery run out.
I had an apple yoghurt (bought yesterday) for a quick breakfast while Michelle finalised packing. The old woman was waiting near the van when we went out, the back door wide open for our luggage. She gave us a quick and somewhat hair-raising ride through the narrow streets of Lipari to the port, where she let us out very close to the wharf. Giving much thanks, we waved as she drove off again.
Our boat pulled in a little early and, after checking to make sure it was headed to Milazzo, we clambered aboard. It waited until the correct departure time, then we were underway. The catamaran made the usual stop at Vulcano, giving us one last glimpse at the volcanic landscape with bright yellow sulphur deposits evident. The last leg was tiring for me, who hadn't slept well again last night due to my feverishness and tossing and turning throughout the night. Today I felt a little better, but still definitely not 100% well.
Upon arrival at Milazzo the important thing was to get the next bus to the railway station. One pulled out just as we were running over to catch it, but another was along within five minutes. This one had a ticket validating machine on board, but the driver said something which seemed to indicate it didn't work and to show him our tickets. Michelle did so and he ripped a corner off them. It was fortunate we still had valid tickets from our previous Milazzo bus journey, since the time lost getting new ones might have made us miss the bus - the next one not being for over half an hour.
The bus pulled into the industrial grime which surrounds the station and let us off. We had reserved seats on the inter-city train leaving at 13:53 tomorrow, so wanted to see if we could exchange the ticket for seats on a train bound for Rome today. A quick check of the timetable told us a train was leaving Milazzo for Rome and Florence at 09:15. The time was about 09:05.
I got into the ticket window queue behind one person, thinking we'd have enough time. The one person seemed to be making bookings for trips every day for the next 12 months or so. I told Michelle to go out to the platform (downstairs, through a tunnel under the tracks and upstairs) with her backpack and wait for the train, and try to hold it if I couldn't get there quickly enough. Eventually the person in front of me finished his business and I got to ask the ticket guy about booking seats on the 09:15 to Rome, just as I saw a train pulling into the platform. The ticket guy said I didn't need a booking, just get on the train!
So I ran, with my heavy backpack, down the stairs, through the tunnel, up the stairs, just in time to see the guard about to wave the train away. I yelled at Michelle to jump on and was about to do so myself when the guard came over and asked where we were going. "Roma!" He told us this was the wrong train, "Aspetti!" So we waited as the train pulled out. Ten minutes later our train arrived, ten minutes late, and we climbed on board.
We found a compartment in the second class section and crashed into the window seats. The seats by the corridor were occupied by two women who didn't seem to know each other, and a young girl about 5 years old. The trip to Messina passed in a blur and we waited some time for the train cars to be loaded on to a ferry for the trip across to Villa San Giovanni - this being a direct train from Sicily to the mainland. We stayed in the train cabin for the trip, with no sensation of motion apart from the thudding of the ferry engine. After a half hour or so, the cars were unloaded again and connected to an engine for the long trip up the coast to Rome.
Michelle and I played cards for a while, but by now my nose was beginning to swell a little and I had a bad headache. Most of the way we just relaxed. We ate lunch on the train, eating fruit and other supplies brought from Lipari.
Eventually we arrived at the now familiar Termini in Rome. We hauled our bags to the Hotel Rimini where the guy at reception was the one we'd only seen briefly in passing before. We asked if they had a room free for the night and received an affirmative response. The cost however was an astronomic LIT240,000 - significantly more than we'd paid per night with our advance booking made in Australia for earlier in the trip. Grateful simply to have somewhere to rest and not have to carry our luggage any further, we paid and went upstairs in the tiny lift to a room which turned out to be somewhat larger and nicer than our original room, though not LIT240,000 nicer.
We relaxed, only going out again to get dinner at Da Gemma alla Lupa - the same restaurant where we'd eaten our last dinner in Rome, and worth going back to. This time I tried the house specialty pasta, spaghetti alla gemma, which turned out to be a rather plain tomato sauce with some ham or something in it. Michelle had the penne all'arrabbiata again. I didn't risk the amaro this time, and we had made sure we had enough cash to pay.
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